Tools vs Capability

I’ve been thinking about a discussion I recently had at work: how tools and capability/skill relate to each other in performing a task well.

If you have good capability, no matter the tool available you can get a task done well.

If you have a good tool, no matter your level of capability you can get a task done well.

Both statements appear to be true, for a given level of quality/expectation of the end result. Obviously the ideal is to have good capability along with good tools to obtain a high quality result in an efficient manner. You can also argue that no matter the capability/skill, there are still limitations to the quality of work if the tools are inadequate (unless your name starts with Mac and ends in Gyver); similarly no matter how good the tool is, it still requires a minimum level of skill to use it well.

All this talk of tools and I’ve yet to make any double entendres. Yay me.

This got me thinking about asymmetrical game systems and “balance”. I seem to hear opinions about how certain asymmetries are imbalanced or “only reward more skilled players” or “are for noobs who just want to ‘nade spam”, and I wonder how much of these designs are intentional or just due to perception of the players. You could view it as giving different sets of tools to different players/factions. Now the argument is that these asymmetrical systems should be “balanced”, otherwise a skilled player who has access to the “better” tool set would always triumph over a similarly skilled player with a “lesser” tool set. Now I think of how some highly skilled players sometimes choose to use “obviously suboptimal” toolsets (characters, factions, builds, decks, whatever) as a sort of handicap to create more challenge for themselves in the game, and when they succeed it becomes something spectacular to behold. I think of Terry Pratchett’s description of Thud and the Tafl games it is based on, and how a bidding mechanism is instituted to account for the perceived imbalance of the player sides. I’ve never played a multiplayer game which so embraces this imbalance and I am intrigued by the concept. Anyone want to teach me Hnefatafl?

(Alright, time for me to be honest. I have absolutely no idea where I was going with that thought. Goes to show how I should do more editing before posting. However, the main purpose of this post was to test the auto-twitter update functionality. I may return to this thought and do a proper job of it one day.)

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